Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

William Barnes

William Barnes : Photograph of William by kind permission of Mr Bruce Lander

Photograph of William by kind permission of Mr Bruce Lander

William Barnes : Allied Victory Medal

Allied Victory Medal

William was born on the 28th September 1893 in Oldham, Lancashire. His father was called Jacob and his mother was Ellen. Ellen's family was quite well off; her father had paid for the construction of the houses in Ellen Street, Chadderton, Oldham and then named it after her. She had married Jacob against her family's wishes. William was their youngest child; his older siblings were James, George, Joseph, Violet and Annie.

In 1901 the family lived at 19 Adelaide Street in Oldham and Jacob was working as a Tin Plate Worker. By 1911 the family had broken up, this was because of Jacob's weakness for drink. Ellen lived with Joseph, William, Violet and her husband and daughter (Ben Schofield and Annie) and Annie and her husband Thomas Buckley at Number 7, off 255 Chadderton Road, Oldham. William was working as a little piecer in a cotton mill.

On the 12th September 1912 William enlisted into the 10th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was his local Territorial Force unit, it trained in the evenings and on weekends. His grandson Bruce believes he joined up with several of his friends. Also, George had fought in the Boer War in South Africa between 1899 and 1902, and Joseph spent 12 years in the 10th Battalion before 1914. William was given the service number 1417. When he enlisted he was 5 feet 6 inches tall, with blue eyes and brown hair.

When the First World War broke out in August 1914 the 10th Battalion, along with the rest of the Territorial Force, was called out for full-time service. They were sent to Egypt in September.

After several months protecting Egypt from the threat of a Turkish invasion William and the 10th Battalion formed part of the force sent to invade Gallipoli. He landed there on the 5th May 1915 as a member of A Company.

The Battalion was soon in action, and its casualties began to increase. They took part in the attack on the village of Krithia between the 4th and 6th June 1915. This had been intended to be captured during late April when the first Allied troops landed, but the Turks had been able to hold them off. William and the 10th Battalion advanced further than most British units, but this meant when the Turks counter attacked they were cut off and forced to withdraw without capturing the village. The 10th lost around 80 dead and 320 wounded. This battle had a major and long lasting impact on the men who fought in it. In later life William's only comment about his wartime experience was: 'We didn't stand a chance, the Turks were just shooting down on us'.

The fighting settled down again after this attack, but Gallipoli was still a dangerous place. On the 31st July a report appeared in the Oldham Chronicle stating that William had been wounded. He had in fact been shot in the head. We don't know exactly where or when this happened, but his wound was serious enough that he had to be evacuated back to the UK on the 12th August.

William remembered seeing the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth, the biggest and most modern warship in the world at the time, in Malta while he was on his way back to the UK.

The surgeons who operated on William felt it was too dangerous to try to remove the bullet from his head, so it remained lodged there for the rest of his life. It caused him several health problems; he suffered frequent heavy nosebleeds along with blinding headaches and nausea.

During his recovery William was assigned to the 45th Provisional Battalion. This unit was made up of Territorial Force soldiers who could not serve overseas. It was used for defence of the UK, although we don't know exactly what William would have done as a member.

Unfortunately William was not recovering, and on the 20th December 1916 he was discharged from the Army as 'No longer physically fit for war service'. He received a Silver War Badge with the serial number 48810 to show that he had been honourably discharged because of his wounds.

William wasn't the only family member to be affected by the war. James was taken prisoner, and Joseph was seriously wounded in action. Violet's husband Ben was killed in late 1916. Thomas Buckley also served in France during the war.

William returned to Oldham. He fell in love with Martha Moore and they had a daughter, Lilian, in December 1917. Martha was originally from Barnsley, and had moved to Oldham with her mother and sisters to find work in the town's cotton mills after her father had died. In March 1920 William and Martha got married at the Oldham Registry Office. Their second daughter Ellen was born that September. Sadly Ellen caught Meningitis and died in 1934. Lilian's husband Victor James Lander was killed over Germany on the 22nd September 1943, aged 23. He was serving with Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force.

William and Martha both worked as general labourers in Oldham's cotton industry. William also worked as a runner for a bookmaker. He would travel around the houses and workplaces of Oldham taking bets and paying out winnings to his bookmaker's customers. At the time this was illegal, so William had to be careful to avoid the police.

In 1955 William was living at 28 Duke Street in Chadderton. That May he replied to an advertisement in the Oldham Chronicle inviting veterans of the fighting at Krithia to a memorial lunch. Around 85 old soldiers attended this event.

Martha died of heart disease during 1956, and William passed away from colon cancer shortly afterwards, in January 1957. He was 63 years old. As well as his Allied Victory Medal William was awarded the 1914-15 Star and the British War Medal for his Army Service.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council